Let’s admit it, India was trumped [the word of our times] by Pakistan last night.
In one of the most paradoxically exciting and drab tournament finals; Pakistan proved its mettle towards the silverware.
The team which came in as the lowest in the standings, managed to stun world No. 1 South Africa, sneak past Sri Lanka, choke out favorites England and finally trounced India!
While the shock will take some time to wear off for most, including Pakistan fans;
The fact is, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise seeing how each team has fared both through the tournament and on the field.
India have played well to reach the finals of course, but Pakistan just as well had nothing to lose and everything to prove.
As it is, they did so in resounding fashion.
But for a billion viewers, it’s still a baffling loss and the question remains;
What just happened?
Well, there might just be an answer.
Ashwin: The Not So Secret Weapon!
At the onset of the tournament;
Ravichandran Ashwin was not only a rested player, but team India’s bowling leader.
The attacking spinner has had a resurgent year, alongside partner Ravindra Jadeja in Test Cricket. ODI’s however are a different question.
This year, team India made what in hindsight was a perfect decision;
They restricted Ashwin from the IPL, resting him for a vital Champions Trophy defense.
Yet as the tournament began, Ashwin was still kept at arms length.
The Kumble favorite and successor didn’t play until the oh so important clash against South Africa.
It was a shock decision, that once again brought into question the simmering rift between captain Kohli and coach Kumble.
Was this a sign of things to come?
But the consensus from the player himself, was that he was preparing for a special outing against the big sides in the big matches.
Ashwin’s stats however speak for them-self.
On field, on the big day he was provided with an exciting attacking field and tasty field;
However the wily bowler squandered the opportunity.
His defensive bowling allowed Pakistan to forged ahead and also pick up the pieces, once their big openers fell through.
More often than not Ashwin is a shark that sniffs blood in the sea, on the day he was a tame fish avoiding the gigantic whale.
In such response, Ashwin ended with his worst figures in ODI cricket; 0 for 70 runs.
What is proved was that resting didn’t save Ashwin, it destroyed him.
The champion bowler just lost the plot of the game with his time out.
A Lax Approach
But Ashwin isn’t the only one to blame.
Despite Kohli’s insistence that his team never took things lightly, sometimes their antics on field painted a different picture.
Their only loss up until the final against Sri-Lanka, proved to Pakistan; there is a chink in the armor.
India seemed to play a far more relaxed game against the Lankan side.
The often furious fielding was missing and Lanka took those teething fangs by the hands and thrashed the rattle snake like India.
This was the first sign.
Though they needn’t have worried after dominating with the ball, India were to easy going at times in their chase against Bangladesh.
It was a subtle indication of issues that might not seem major in the short term, but had huge long term ramifications.
Inexperience also shown during the finals.
Bumrah who is a ruthless bowler, but has issues of maintaining his run; gave away a crucial no ball.
The attempts to run out players, just as they had so efficiently done through the tournament was there;
But after some missed opportunities, the mood and attitude simply faltered and failed.
Even the batting indicated the same.
Sharma simply shrugged as he got out of the first ball, his approach against the DRS was lacking.
An indifference set in with each player, only one man truly shown on the final night.
The Heroism of Hardik Pandya
A million hearts went out to Hardik Pandya last night.
His sublime efforts at the lower end of the batting line up, for a moment promised a miracle.
Pandya’s 76 from 43 balls was a blistering knock, if only Ravindra Jadeja had supported him all the way through.
The way in which the run out occurred was not only heart breaking, but signified a lack of character within the wily all-rounder.
It was a moment out of a movie, but reality struck and Pakistan picked up the scalps once more.
The Luck Factor
Fortune favors the brave.
These words apply absolute to Pakistan’s crazy efforts in the final.
As with the silly run out, Pakistan gained some edge of the seat opportunities that took India out of the game.
Luck however doesn’t just come to anybody, it does so for those who show the efforts to deserve it and Pakistan hands down did.
The team got opportunities with missed run outs, to sad no balls, to even a ball landing on the stumps; only to not cause any effect.
Indeed, even Pakistan would claim that luck or in this case god was in their favor.
But why wouldn’t they be, after all this side truly deserved to win.
Pakistan, Sarfaraz and his Young Stallions
All silly jokes aside,
It doesn’t matter whether Sarfaraz is fluent in English or not;
It’s his game that does the talking and indeed what a game it was.
Apart from the early hiccup in the tournament, Sarfaraz led a hungry side willing to prove their mettle on the big stage.
Since the infamous bus shootings, Pakistan have faced the brunt of being a homeless side.
It has been a free-fall since for a team plagued by politics, player apathy and financial difficulties.
Yet Pakistan managed the impossible.
At the center of it all, was a man willing to dream.
Sarfaraz Ahmed went against the grain in backing his players, this shown best in a final where he sent relatively inexperienced Imad Wasim over him;
Wasim went onto give a nice supporting 25 to a blistering Hafeez.
His backing also saw a young Raees, pick crucial scalps in a semi-final.
The same intuitiveness understood, that despite his inconsistency; Amir was the key.
In the final, this meant a game Amir ripping apart India’s top order.
The other highlight was the young Fakhar Zaman.
Under some intelligence guidance by his partner Azhar Ali, Zaman who had so far been relentless in run getting was decoded by the Indian bowling side;
Only to reinvent thanks to Ali, and showcase his brilliance with a maiden hundred knock.
Indeed, if this Pakistan side can forge ahead as they have done through the tournament;
They can make a bid for a World Cup victory in 2019.
As for now, they showed they are head and shoulder with if not above the world’s top sides.
Pakistan outclassed everyone on a way to a well deserved victory.
From a slightly disheartened opposing fan, this is a salute to team Pakistan.